MANHATTAN (CN) - Lady Gaga, her manager and a merchandising company refused to approve a line of Lady Gaga dolls as a pretext for pushing back the summer 2012 launch to coincide with her next album release, a toy maker claims in court.
MGA Entertainment says it struck a deal with Bravado International Group Merchandising Services and Atom Factory, the company that licenses Lady Gaga's merchandising rights and her manager, to make and sell a line of Lady Gaga fashion dolls and accessories. Some of the dolls had sound chips allowing them to play or sing music, according to MGA's lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court.
The Bratz doll maker says it advanced Bravado a "whopping" $1 million for the licensing rights - "a huge sum that MGA would not have paid to any other celebrity, except for Lady Gaga."
MGA claims it agreed to pay the advance plus a 15 percent royalty to make and sell the dolls worldwide once Bravado and Stefani Germanotta, a.k.a. mega-pop star "Lady Gaga," approved the final designs in writing.
The parties agreed to a "ship date" of summer 2012, so that the dolls would be in retail stores by Christmas, MGA claims.
The toy maker says Lady Gaga and her manager were "aware of MGA's herculean effort" to meet the ship date, and were "approving and encouraging" MGA along the way.
At a February 2012 meeting with Bravado and Atom Factory representatives, MGA claims its CEO unveiled samples of the dolls.
"Bravado and Atom Factory were, to put it mildly, blown away at the exceptional and realistic qualities of the samples," MGA claims. They allegedly kept one sample and asked for photos of the others to show Lady Gaga.
MGA claims it urged Atom Factory and Bravado to "expedite the approvals on our concepts as fast as you can," as it had nabbed valuable retail shelf space for the dolls.
Atom Factory Vice President Bobby Campbell emailed MGA in March, suggesting the manufacturer "make a few tweaks" to the samples, according to MGA.
"Facial structure should be more supermodel-like - think a prettier version of [Lady] Gaga; thin out the cheeks and sharpen the jaw line, give her more of a cat eye, and a sexier/pouty lip," Campbell allegedly wrote.
MGA claims Bravado and Atom Factory repeatedly assured it that the new designs were ready for final approval and that Lady Gaga was "happy" with the samples.
But in April, Bravado tried to renegotiate the agreement to block MGA from making Lady Gaga dolls with sound chips, though the companies had previously agreed that musical dolls were included in the rights granted to MGA, the toy maker claims.
When MGA refused to renegotiate, it claims Bravado, Atom Factory and Lady Gaga "engaged in intentional and deliberate delays and became nonresponsive."
Bravado's CEO allegedly told MGA that Lady Gaga wanted to delay the dolls' launch to coincide with the release of her next album in 2013.
MGA claims this was impossible given the resources it had devoted to the summer launch.
It pressed Bravado and Atom Factory to get the green light from Lady Gaga, who was on tour in Japan, explaining that major retailers such as Toys R Us and Walmart were lining up to sell the dolls, the lawsuit says.
But MGA claims Atom Factory, Bravado and Lady Gaga "refused, and continue to refuse, to concede their final approval of the Lady Gaga Dolls."
It is suing all three for breach of contract, pretextual breach of contract and tortious interference with contract.
MGA wants court orders forcing the defendants to approve the dolls, allowing MGA to make and sell them as planned, and declaring the defendants' lack of final approval a pretext for pushing back the release date.
It also seeks $11 million, plus punitive damages. MGA is represented by Charles Grimes of Grimes & Battersby in New York.